Evolution of Unicycle engineering - Game changing parts!


Hello especially to the old folks that have seem the unicyle evolve since the old times when KH was “just” a rider not a unicycle brand!

When cnc machined palastic handles and bike cranksets and custom frames… For me the air saddle conversion was one of those amazing super cool things!!

Well you know what I mean… I would love to see which part do you remember.

Please share, I would love to hear!!

(You can share current parts or even prototypes of future developments)

You mean parts that no longer exist and being sad about them disappearing?
Or the excitement of seeing new parts?

Old times? Kris was only born in 1973. I was already in high school.

Probably the biggest breakthrough was taking the “farthing” wheel off.:wink:

The pros and cons of old saddles vs modern ones.

Certainly the padding on the new generation of KH, Nimbus, and others is a welcome development.

However, I miss the character and convenience of the folding wooden saddle with a simple brass turnbuckle.

A happy accident of the folding mechanism was the groove for the coccyx, surprisingly similar to the design of modern bike saddles which cost £100 or more.

The ability to use basic woodworking tools to optimise the shape of the handle was good, but you had to be careful because in the event of a UPD it could split along the grain. Splinters in your fingers were bad enough, but they could be the devil’s own job to get them out of the chamois pad of your cycling tweeds.

@Mikefule never change :stuck_out_tongue:

A spot for the twins!

For me the 36" unicycle was a game changer. When I learned how to ride there were only 20" and 24" unicycles.

I don’t know if the internet qualifies, but the internet has helped the unicycle world.

A Google image search on your pic returned “Best guess for this image: cleaving axe”.

Close enough.

It’s an antique folding shooting stick.

For anyone who doesn’t know what a shooting stick is, it’s less James Bond than it sounds. A stick that can be used as a walking stick, then used as a one legged stool either while you’re firing your gun or while you’re taking a rest and a nip from your hip flask.


I intend to write a serious response to this thread but I’ve been procrastinating. I hope to stop procrastinating tomorrow.

I like that!
You know - procrastinating people never take “now” as an answer - - :o

Best regards,

I will use that!:smiley:

It is not my invention - just something I have heard some time ago.

Best regards,

I hadn’t heard it either, but was intending to get around to it.

Meaningful innovations during my time in unicycling:

  • 1980: Plastic bumpers on saddles! (Miyata) Before that they were metal or non-existent
  • 1983(?): 1-less-tooth bottom sprocket for Schwinn Giraffe; tire doesn't wear in one spot
  • 1984: Bike shorts! They already existed, but few unicyclists wore them yet (I discovered them)
  • 1984: Unicon: Unicycling World Championships
  • 1990s: Paul Wyganowski, Rick Hunter, Chris Reeder and other custom builders who made great parts for us
  • 1995: Schlumpf hub introduced
  • 1998(?): Unicyclesource.com (later Unicycle.com)
  • 1998: Coker introduced; a revolution in long distance riding/racing to follow
  • 1999: First splined hub on a unicycle, the DM ATU
  • Early 2000s: KH and Nimbus, working separately and together, to develop better saddles, frames, hubs, etc.
Not all of those are engineering innovations, but many are pivotal to our sport being where it is today. And I'm sure I'm leaving out a ton of stuff...

When knee pads replaced Bandaids

Was that the first mass-produced Muni?

Disc brakes were the biggest game changers that happened during my time of unicycling. Without them, all the top muni riders would be a lot slower. Any other improvement has been mostly a “lighter and stronger” improvement. Those make things better, but they don’t enable new techniques and setup choices like disk brakes do.

Some background history before I give my simple answer.

My first uni had a crude and uncomfortable seat: a rectangle of metal with rounded corners, and the ends curved up slightly. On top of this was an oblong block of cheap foam, not glued in place, but simply covered with thin nylon cloth — not even ripstop nylon. I improved it by binding it together with self adhesive handlebar tape.

My second and third unis had Viscount saddles which were heavy, but adequately comfortable. The plastic bumpers were poorly attached with self tapping screws and fell off regularly. Only my third uni had a built in grab handle on the seat. Now all my unis have built in grab handles.

My first uni had no quick release on the seat post clamp. I improvised with a levered nut (a one armed wingnut?) pirated from an old shopper bike.

My first uni had lollipop bearing holders held in place with self tapping screws, one of which sheared after a week or so and had to be drilled out. The bearing holders rattled in the frame as I rode. My second uni had lollipop bearing holders held firmly in place with through bolts and Nylock nuts. They took ages to remove. My third had cheap pressed steel bearing caps. I was on about my sixth uni before I had one with machined bearing caps.

My first uni had cottered cranks. That means that each end of the axle was round with only one flat ground into it. The cranks were wedged in place with a tapered cotter pin hammered through a hole in the fat end of the crank. The cotter pin was then held in place, at least temporarily, with a nut. My second uni had “cotterless cranks” which was an amazing thing at the time. Many of you now dismiss them as “only” square taper. My sixth uni was the first with a splined hub.

Those first cranks were steel. In fact, I was on about my 7th or 8th uni before I bought one that had light alloy cranks as standard — and, they had dual holes, which was luxury undreamed of.

My first uni had a heavy frame made of round section mild steel tubes brazed into lugs. The forks were round section and the “sticks” of the lollipops poked up the ends and rattled. My second uni had tapered Reynolds steel forks.

My third had a lighter steel frame and, to my great delight, it was chromed rather than painted. I was on my sixth uni before I had one that had an aluminium frame.

My first uni had a heavy steel rim crudely painted with what appeared to be enamel paint. My first 36 was a Coker Big One with a chromed steel rim. All of my 4 remaining unis now have light aluminium alloy rims.

My first “handle” other than the plastic seat handle, was a hand made steel thing that was extremely heavy, and bolted into one fixed position to the metal base of the Viscount seat. I burned out a drill bit drilling the holes. I now have KH and Nimbus handle set ups on my 29 and 36 that I can adjust or remove in a minute or two.

Tyres have improved. Foss tubes are a massive improvement. Pinned pedals are now readily available, including lightweight plastic pedals wit cro-molly spindles and metal pins.

My first computer had to be set up manually to the wheel size and gave very limited information. I can now map my ride in real time on my mobile phone and upload it and review it on my laptop, looking at split times, average speeds, changes of elevation and total distance.

Out of all of these changes and more, what one thing do I think has improved my enjoyment of unicycling the most? What single improvement, rather than the combined effect of improvements in weight, stiffness and design? What is the one thing that improves every ride that was not available on my first 3 or 4 unis?

The seat handle. Yes, seriously.

My second choice would be this forum, because in the east midlands of England, unicyclists are few and far between. This forum has encouraged and educated me as a rider, inspired me, and sometimes helped me in a crisis. This forum is the friendliest place on the internet. Thank you.

I guess that depends on one’s definition of mass-produced. Let’s call that “unicycles (or parts) you could order from a company and not have to wait for them to make it”. That’s not the best definition, as we used to have to wait many months to replace our Miyata seats or other parts which actually were mass-produced, but is hopefully adequate for this. Most high-end unicycles are not made in large batches. Schlumpf hubs, for example, also don’t fit my definition well, at least not year-round. They are made in batches, which often sell out by the time they’re done.

Pashley, a well-known bike maker in England, introduced the Pashley Muni in 1997. Not sure if it was on the market then, but one was donated to the California Mountain Unicycle Weekend, and brought by Roger Davies. It was won in a random drawing by Jonathan Young from Oregon.

The Pashley Muni addressed the infant “Muni market” but wasn’t innovative beyond its mountain bike wheel. A 26" steel rim of typical width for MTBs at the time (not very wide). Steel, square taper cranks. They did have an improvement on the Taiwanese lolipop bearings that Mikefule described above (unless he had a Pashley), in that the bolts went all the way through and had nuts on the other side. But they were still pressing flat against the unicycle’s tubular frame. The Pashley uni seat was something I described as an upside-down gravy boat; large and ungainly. But I did know one person who actually liked it. Only one person.

The DM ATU, with the splined axle, was also from England, made by David Mariner. I got mine in 1999, because nobody bought the one that the Drummonds brought to their first USA convention, in Washington state. It went immediately to the North Shore trails in Vancouver (Kris Holm’s training ground), where I was chicken to ride the majority of the manmade structures there. :slight_smile: I remember hauling it around by its heavy Viscount saddle (no handle) while holding a large video camera in the other hand! The ATU used the frame design from DM’s “Ringmaster” uni, the deluxe model. It had a one-footing-friendly frame with a knurled surface for grip, and this frame was wide enough to fit a 2.4" tire.

BTW, wider tires on Munis were also an innovation that changed what unicycles could do offroad. It’s not like you couldn’t ride lots of really bumpy stuff, but wide tires made it possible to ride it faster, survive bigger hits without pinch flats, and otherwise have a much more pleasant ride.

I remember the excitement of being in London for work in 2010 or 2011 and walking past OddBalls at the weekend - in Camden town. I had bought a uni from that juggling shop, a good 15 years before… one of those chrome thing with the worse seat ever and the white wall tire that became bald in a month. I went in out of curiosity, I hadn’t been to Camden market tourist trap in years. And what a surprise! There were badass munis with big knobby tires, there were cool looking QU’AX, mat black with 48 spokes wheel and yellow hub, and so on. What a shock! How cool was that! It didn’t take long to find unicycle.uk that same evening and order a 24"!

Totally nailed it Mike!
When I got the first unicycle in the mid nineties, the internet was just starting here in Europe. First cyber-café was Cyberia in London’s Fitzrovia, circa 1993 or 94. The IUF already had a website and I downloaded a .doc with 150px photos of a “how to ride a unicycle” method, as well as the “levels”. I printed those and read them over and over. I never became proficient on that uni then, and I’m sure if this forum had existed (or I found it as searching the internet was far from being an acquired reflex) I would have become better. Learning is a pretty lonely thing if you don’t know another rider who can help, but thanks to this place we can find advice, ask questions, and ultimately get it!